Follow Me to the Depths of the Jungle on our Day Trip to Lamanai
On Saturday July 27th in Belize, the other AFAR students and I climbed into vans to endure the grueling two hour bus ride to Lamanai, old Mayan ruins located near the New River. Upon arrival, we were greeted by our superb tour guide Carlos, who showed us where we were on the map, where we were going (Lamanai) and where we had come from (San Ignacio). Since Lamanai is in the depths of the jungle, to get to the ruins you must travel another hour by boat on the New River.
Everyone was starving, having eaten breakfast early at the local market. We devoured our chicken stew, watermelon, and rice and beans which gave us enough energy for the short trek to the first Mayan structure. Before heading to our first destination, Stan (one of the expert archeologists on site) gave us a brief summary of the artifacts in the mini-museum and then we were off. As we were getting closer to our first stop, the Mask Temple, I realized we would be climbing the structure and braced myself for the long stairs. Just before setting off, we received a disturbing, yet intriguing talk about blood sacrifices from Stan. These blood sacrifices were made for the gods most often targeting the tongues and (male) reproductive organs of the people, by taking a rope with nails attached to it and running it through those parts. We made our way up the temple and stood on top, where the view was well worth the climb. We obviously had to stop and take pictures, but once our photo shoot was done, we proceeded on to the next temple. I thought the walk up the mask temple was hard, but then I saw the Jaguar temple and realized the mask temple was merely a warm- up. From the top, you could see the New River flowing by and the palm trees, which looked so much smaller from there. Mr. Saunders didn’t let us go back down without throwing a frisbee from the edge that landed nowhere near the target.
Another photo session later, we were back down and ready to go. Our next destination hit very close to home, because back at the Cahal Pech site, we were excavating a ball court, and here was another one. Both ball courts, the one in Lamanai and the one at Cahal Pech, looked very similar. As we stood around it listening to Carlos explain ancient ball game traditions, our other tour guide focused on getting a tarantula out of its hole.
We were distracted, so when he came out of nowhere with a huge spider on his hand we were, to say the least, a little scared. The tour was coming to an end but before we departed we stopped to buy cold drinks and Belize souvenirs like bracelets and shirts. We endured the boat journey yet again, but this time we were ready for the exciting twists and turns. The boat ride back seemed way shorter, maybe it was because we weren't starving this time, but I think it was because none of us wanted to leave.